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Monday, October 02, 2023 — Houston, TX

Alcohol policy cuts both ways

By Rice Thresher Staff     4/18/13 7:00pm

The Thresher commends the administration for incorporating many of the Alcohol Policy Advisory Committee's recommendations into its proposed changes to the alcohol policy as announced April 15 (see story, p. 1).

The explicit ban on underage hard alcohol consumption and possession is reasonable. It is unrealistic to expect that the changes will stop all current students from consuming hard alcohol. The Thresher acknowledges the possibility that the policy change may drive more underage students to consume greater amounts of hard alcohol in very small gatherings and in shorter lengths of time prior to public or private parties. With the policy change, these students may be less inclined than they currently are to pace themselves throughout the night. But on the other hand, the changes may be able to curb dangerous and irresponsible drinking behavior as intended. We cannot foresee the effects this ban will have on Rice's current drinking culture. For now, the culture undoubtedly centers around hard liquor.

Regardless, the Thresher hopes the student body will respect the spirit of the policy and its intentions. Those who already drink responsibly are probably already adhering to most of the fair rules now explicitly laid out by the policy changes. The Thresher believes the intent of the policy changes is to urge those who drink or behave irresponsibly around alcohol to seriously re-evaluate their choices and modify their behavior, both for the sake of their own safety and for that of their peers. Specifically, the increased responsibilities for hosts and caps on the size of private gatherings rightfully hold hosts accountable and force them to plan carefully in advance of hosting. 

The Thresher believes the key difference the policy changes will make is in how students who are caught violating the policy will be punished. Since these rules and hard caps will now be codified in a policy change, repercussions for violations will likely be much harsher than the current sanctions. The Thresher would like to reiterate the need for students to act reasonably and responsibly. Students should simply be smart and not act foolishly around alcohol, especially hard liquor. We encourage students to watch out for our peers and take on the responsibility to ensure we all act smartly and safely around alcohol so that violation repercussions are not necessary. 

Despite these endorsements, the Thresher believes the ambiguous and vague wording around the ban on drinking games in the proposed policy changes is problematic. To clarify, the ban on drinking games is not a new addition to the alcohol policy; it had already been part of the previous policy. The Thresher commends the administration's choice to highlight this aspect of the policy by announcing the rule with the other policy modifications. However, the single line in the alcohol policy on drinking games does not define what constitutes a "drinking game." We believe the definition of a drinking game is highly subjective. Under the policy, shotgunning a beer, participating in a case race or playing beer pong may or may not be considered playing a drinking game. The vague wording creates the potential for inconsistent enforcement and exploitation of the policy, whether by enforcers or by students. 

It is extremely important to delineate what defines a drinking game in the policy because we believe responsible drinking games exist. One can punish irresponsible or competitive drinking games without banning all of them. For example, we do not believe beer pong is a dangerous drinking game because it proceeds slowly with a substance of relatively low alcohol content. Banning beer pong for safety reasons seems unwarranted. 

For many of us, these changes are new, but in four years, if the policy is still in place as proposed, these changes will be seen as part of the norm in the same way students who matriculated during the hard alcohol probation understood the probation as part of Rice's drinking culture. The Thresher hopes the policy changes will succeed in encouraging responsible, safe drinking behavior at Rice.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece's author.

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